Whodini

Back in Black

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As one of the first successful rap acts, Whodini albums quickly became standard bearers and necessary purchases for fans. The Brooklyn-raised trio of Jalil Hutchins, Ecstasy, and DJ Grandmaster Dee first came to national attention with the single "The Haunted House of Rock." Their third record, Back in Black, is the follow-up to a multi-platinum album, 1984's Escape. Those expecting a by-the-numbers sequel of sorts to that effort won't be too let down here. Although Back in Black does revisit lyrical and musical themes of previous efforts, it also offers a few new tricks or two. The first track (and a single release), "Funky Beat" features monster bass and drums, the one-two punch of Hutchins and Ecstasy, as well as a rare rap from Grandmaster Dee. The well-produced "One Love" has great synth signatures and the guys dispensing their brand of pithy and pragmatic advice. They seem to unlearn those lessons by the time the hilarious "I'm a Ho" rolls around. The slow, scratch-laden track has a boastful chorus ("I rock three different freaks after every show") and some great rhymes from Hutchins. Despite the group's best efforts, Back in Black does often seem to be style over substance. Luckily the producer Larry Smith knew how to keep things sonically interesting. On the lyrically foggy "Fugitive," the hard rock guitars and clanging cymbals mesh especially well with Ecstasy's droll and abrupt delivery. "Echo Scratch" is also all over the road, but it was a great chance for Grandmaster Dee to show off his turntable skills. Also recorded at Battery Studios in London (as was Escape), Back in Black wasn't as influential as its predecessor, but it's nearly as enjoyable.

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